INTERVIEWING A CANDIDATE FOR AN INTERIM PASTOR POSITION

The interim time is a special time in the life of a congregation. It is

  • a time of challenge and opportunity
  • a time of stress and vulnerability
  • a time to come to terms with the past
  • a time to clarify a church’s identity and mission
  • a time of changes in leadership and shifts in power
  • a time to renew denominational linkages with the larger denomination
  • a time to consider new directions in ministry
  • a time to deal with conflict and resolve issues
While an interim pastor may be needed to fulfill basic ministerial tasks, s/he may also be asked to help a congregation with specific tasks related to a transition. The role of an interim pastor is to help the congregation do whatever spiritual and emotional work it needs to do in order to be ready to receive a new pastor with open arms, on course to fulfill their mission with faithfulness, energy, and imagination. The clearer the interviewing committee can be about their needs, issues, and expectations for the interim pastor, the more effective the interviewing process can be both for the committee and for the candidate.

Before the interview with interim ministry candidates, the following preparations can be made:

  • determine the special needs of the church due to this interim, transitional time. Are we grieving? in conflict? uncertain of our direction? unclear about our identity and mission?
  • prepare an organizational chart of various decision-making groups and committees
  • list the groups and programs of the church, when they meet, and the role you want your interim pastor to play
  • gather copies of a typical worship bulletin, recent newsletter, and annual report
  • have information on the previous pastor’s compensation package and the range in which you are authorized to negotiate with interim candidates
Ask the candidate to supply you with a statement on ministry, listing of ministry experience, any pertinent training and education, and 3 references.

Possible Interviewing Questions and what to look for:

What do you value about interim ministry? Do you approach it any differently than you would in a called/installed position? (Does this candidate have an understanding and passion for interim ministry?)

What do you see as some of your strengths in helping a church during a time of transition? (Are these the strengths we need at this time?)

What are some of the kinds of situations that challenge and stretch you? (Will this candidate be over their head by working with us during this interim?)

Share a Bible story that has particular meaning for you and why. (Does this candidate’s theology and approach to the Bible mesh with ours?)

What feeds your spirit? (How will this person function as our spiritual leader?)

How would you describe your leadership style? (Will this style fit with our structure of decision-making, e.g., your Session/Council/Cabinet/Consistory?)

Discuss with the candidate the tasks you think your church needs to accomplish before being ready to receive a new pastor. (Is there grieving going on? conflict to resolve? a need for renewal? a lack of clarity of direction and mission? ) How do you propose helping us address these issues?

Show the candidate a copy of a sample worship service. Does this order of worship correspond to what you are used to? (Explore any differences. The candidate will bring some changes but should be able to show respect for your ways as well.) Share the role other members of the church usually play in worship leadership.

Talk about the various groups and programs in the church and what role you want the interim pastor to play with each. (Remember that a time of transition is a good time to consider when to let go of some things, change direction, or experiment or explore new things.) Are you able to relate to these groups and programs in the ways we need at this time?

Describe other hired or volunteer staff positions and discuss the role you want the interim pastor to have with these persons.

How can we reach you in case of emergencies? (Sometimes an interim minister will be commuting a distance or serving you in less than full-time arrangements.)

How long a commitment are you able to make in serving us as interim minister? (Some candidates may be ready to commit for the duration of your search until the next pastor is ready to begin; others may intend to move on at an earlier point.)

Review regular pastoral expectations, such as:

  •  worship leadership (including communion practices)
  • availability for funerals, weddings, and emergencies
  • education (youth, adult, confirmation, etc.)
  • administration (staff relationships, office hours, etc.)
  • visitation and pastoral care (hospital, home-bound)
  • other groups or programs (women’s, men’s, youth, etc.)
  • other

What kind of salary compensation are you seeking? What housing allowance or arrangement will you need? (Be prepared to know what your bottom line lump sum total is. Give the interim candidate freedom to apportion the amounts in the way that suits their situation. Every interim candidate may do this a bit differently. )

Let the candidate know when you expect to make a decision. As a courtesy, be prepared to reimburse candidates for their travel expenses for the interview.

When appropriate, negotiate a contract. Clear agreement should be reached about:

  • expectations and tasks/goals during the interim time
  • salary and payment schedule
  • housing needs or housing allowance
  • health insurance, pension payments, etc.
  • expenses (travel, etc.)
  • study leave and vacation leave
  • time commitment